She played a comically brusque lawyer on Fox's "Ally McBeal," one of "Charlie's Angels" in two films and a fictionalized version of herself on HBO's "Sex and the City," but Lucy Liu is more than the sum of her acting parts. She also is a passionate human-rights advocate, author and artist. To complement her daily workouts, three years ago Liu began meditating. Her personal instructor? Deepak Chopra.
A lead role in "Elementary," a CBS series that just began its third season, soon followed. The show, set in New York City, is a modern-day reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, with Liu, 45, as Joan Watson, a former physician initially hired to be Holmes' "sober companion."
How did you start meditating?
Deepak Chopra wrote an introduction to an art book I wrote, and he asked me if I wanted to learn meditation from him. I said, "Absolutely."
He said, "Get in a comfortable seated position. The most important thing is not to judge your meditation." If you're thinking about the grocery list, all the things you have to do or what you want to eat for dinner, and 20 minutes goes by without a quiet moment in your mind, that doesn't matter. You are doing it and the energy adds up. Meditation is very calming. Giving yourself time every morning and evening to sit and regroup is important. I get up extra early to meditate.
What is your exercise routine?
I mix Spinning, running and Pilates. Pilates is great for posture. When you first do Pilates, you don't feel anything and don't know that anything is happening. As you continue, it really strengthens from the inside out. I like using a reformer [a Pilates exercise machine] more than doing mat work. The counterweight keeps me engaged.
Are there certain foods you deliberately eat or avoid?
I went gluten-free for a little while.… [Now] for me, it's about exercise and trying to modulate what I eat. Give yourself treats occasionally, depending on how much you have exercised. If you cut things out of your diet altogether, you will want those foods more and end up bingeing.
Have you ever done cleanses or taken supplements?
I have done cleanses. Sometimes I'll juice most of the day and then have one meal. I take a multivitamin and vitamins D and C. I'm so busy that when I don't take vitamins, I [seem to] come down with a cold faster.
How much sleep do you get, and do you ever nap?
When I'm working, I get five to six hours. Not enough. At lunchtime, if I can I'll take a 10- to 15-minute nap. Sometimes it is not about falling asleep but having a rest and putting your feet up. I think having blood flow a different direction is a good thing for your body and brain.
Lucy Liu's meditations
Here are some meditations Lucy Liu wrote, taken from her book "Seventy Two":
For healing: I achieve a deep sense of balance as my compassion grows for other people's health and healing. I begin a cycle of love and healing that returns to me.
For freedom: A mountain lies ahead. But it is all glass. It shatters and I realize there is nothing holding me back at all.
For global transformation: Transformative power exists within me. I tap into this energy, uniting with the collective force of the universe. As I become renewed, so does the world around me.
For listening to your soul: My soul is the most quiet voice. Like a compass, it leads me.
When enough is never enough: I will dream big. I shall keep asking and keep receiving. Expanding, ever blooming.
For letting go: The time has come. I must let go. By doing so, I gain everything.